Kenny 'safe but needs to lift his game' after latest results in poll
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny needs to improve his performance and hold the party's support, party insiders say, as deputy leader Richard Bruton emerges as the public's clear choice as next leader.
But the latest poll findings show that Mr Kenny is "no longer credible as a potential Taoiseach", an FG TD has told the Irish Independent.
Mr Kenny is secure in his position, for now, in the aftermath of the fallout from George Lee's acrimonious departure from FG, which has put the spotlight firmly on the leader.
If Mr Kenny did resign, Mr Bruton would be by far the public's number one choice to become leader.
A 'Sunday Independent'/ Millward Brown Lansdowne poll shows 54pc of voters backed Mr Bruton as his replacement if a vacancy occurred. The poll also showed 49pc of voters don't believe Mr Kenny will still be leader at the next General Election.
The findings follow the same poll in this newspaper showing his satisfaction rating falling again to just 26pc -- despite his party rising in support to 34pc, a surge of 4pc.
Mr Kenny's dissatisfaction rating is at record levels of 61pc and he has not recovered in popularity since the 2007 General Election defeat.
Mr Kenny's public appearances in the Dail and media interviews will be scrutinised far more closely after he apologised for a series of below-par performances and pledged to up his game and "be myself more".
The backing of the FG frontbench and parliamentary party last week has strengthened his position, but many in the party feel the issue is not dead.
A frontbench member said the party had, ironically, benefited in the poll from the coverage of Mr Lee's departure and Mr Kenny was not in any danger at the moment.
"There's no such thing as bad publicity. Kenny is safe. What would worry me is if he didn't improve his performance and we are down in future polls. There is no problem with his leadership at the moment.
"The pro-Kenny people think it's over now and it's time to move on. But for the people who want him gone, it's not," the TD said.
Another party figure said only time would tell for Mr Kenny, with the coming months being crucial.
"You've another two-and-a-half years left in this Dail term. I think we need to accept the fact that Enda Kenny is no longer credible as a potential Taoiseach. I think that sums it up," the FG TD said.
Meanwhile, Mr Lee could have gone on to become party leader if he had stuck with politics, a party frontbencher says.
FG community affairs spokesman Michael Ring, a constituency colleague of the leader, also advised Mr Kenny to listen to his spindoctors less.
Mr Ring said Mr Lee was "handed a seat" in Dublin South with "a soft run in to the Dail" and had a bright future in politics. "He would have been a minister and probably would have been a future leader of the party," he said.
The Mayo TD said Mr Kenny will lead the party into the next general election. On Mr Kenny's performance, Mr Ring said the party leader was a great communicator on a one-to-one level.
"Maybe he's better off not listening so much to the spindoctors and be himself more," he said.